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Tall Women Linked to Greater Cancer Risk

Study Suggests Taller Women Have Higher Risk of a Variety of Cancer Types

Explaining the Height-Cancer Link continued...

"This very large and well-designed study including over a million women shows somewhat higher risk of many cancers, and cancer overall, with increasing height," says Eric Jacobs, PhD, strategic director of pharmacoepidemiology at the American Cancer Society, in an email.

The underlying biological reason for the slightly higher risk among taller people is not known, he says.

"One possibility is that taller people may have higher levels of growth-related hormones, both in childhood and in adulthood, and these growth-related hormones may modestly increase cancer risk," he says. "Interestingly, height had relatively little relationship to risk of smoking-related cancers among smokers, highlighting the overwhelming importance of smoking."

"Nobody will be trying to make themselves shorter to lower their cancer risk. And the current results do not mean tall people need additional cancer screening," Jacobs says. "The bottom line is that both short and tall people can lower their risk of developing and dying from cancer by not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting the recommended cancer screening tests."

According to Walter Willet, MD, MPH, chair of the department of nutrition and the Fredrick John Stare professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, "this analysis confirms the relation between height and risks of many cancers and this information does point us to new lines of research, especially factors in childhood that influence height and how they're related to cancer risk."

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